by: Chloe McMurray
In these two poems by Chloe McMurray, outsider status imparts its own kind of grace, one that celebrates the here and now while simultaneously honoring a sense of nostalgia for inclusion and acceptance that was never freely given, but had to be created through art.
The Last Day
Pale light strains to come through the stained glass;
Instead it drips like the slow pour of coffee from a filter.
She tells me about the time she cried by the Steinway.
At the altar, a conversation with her ghost dad.
I lean my head against her shoulder; muggy air fills
The chapel no bigger than a storage shed.
White burn marks down the bricks on the right side
Above the baptistery—I wonder what heathen was boiled alive.
Writers migrate through the archway, etched words above them:
Terra Firma. They wander to the cool garden on the hill.
I sit a step up behind her, shoulders between my knees,
And watch a mockingbird swoop down to steal a worm.
He misses the first time, swoops again, flies victorious.
The hymns start, “I’ll Fly Away” and “Amazing Grace”
Swarm our ears and I listen to the river stones
Her silvery voice carries and lays at my feet.
You lay down beside me
On the side of the bed I never slept on
a gesture of something more benign than hypocrisy
but not very much.
Superman walks now.
People stare from under their eyes
nudge and nod and whisper “He’s bald now?”
He pretends to walk on.
I knocked the wine over
with the right side of my foot trying to kiss under your ponytail.
I apologized. You said “Ouch” twice more.
I scratched your back.
Caraline stepped over the puddle,
lifting her petticoat up and raising amused eyebrows;
the chicken flew into the basket of her dress;
she fell with a splash.
She boarded a train
crowded like cattle on slaughter day; she saw him, green eyes,
crooked smile, chiseled jaw; she fell in his lap and he slid
her petticoat to the side.
Unused bottle warmer, 1974
sits among cherry stained dresser, oak boudoir,
Aunt Jemima salt&pepper shakers, a tintype of a US soldier.
The dog won’t stop barking.
Eat. Shop. Stay
in our quiet little town, antiquated country palace; the creek
drowns out all but one noise, one never ending, pleading noise.
A gun shot. The dog is quiet.
Chloè McMurray is a junior at Union College studying English, Sociology, and Writing. She won the Rushton Writing Competition in Poetry for 2017 at Union. Likewise, she had her first poem and short story published in The Grassroots Women Project: The Notebook in 2016, and another poem published in SKCTC’s Literary Journal: Bloodroot. For two years, she has led a creative writing and social justice group in her hometown of Middlesboro, Kentucky which caters to minority group youth, primarily those in the LGBTQ+ community.